Cross-Addictions and Codependency
Addicts by definition are dependent. They become dependent and reliant upon the object of their addiction in order to function, and they spend more time in connection with the addiction. When addicts abstain, many develop cross-addictions. To witness cross-addiction first hand, you only have to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting to see how many people are smoking.
Sober alcoholics start chain smoking, overeating, developing sex addictions, and so on. Some food addicts who’ve had bariatric surgery to lose weight eat less, but become alcoholics or shopaholics.
There are many causes for addiction, but neuroscience research has demonstrated that when addicts stop practicing their primary addiction and adopt another addiction, it is at the same level of addiction. For example, when a compulsive gambler abstains from gambling, he or she’s at risk to start drinking as if the gambler were an alcoholic all those years. Aside from physical reasons, on the emotional level, he or she hasn’t done the emotional recovery work to heal his or her lost Self. This is where codependency comes in.
When addicts give up their addiction, they then have to deal with their emotions. Instead, many who are single want to rush into romance (jokingly called “the 13th step” in AA). They’re squarely confronted with all the relationship and intimacy problems that they’ve avoided. There are those who sponsor newcomers and try to manage the newcomer’s life and even obsess about their “baby.” Again, the underlying problem of codependency is surfacing. Sometimes, it’s years before they’re willing to face their codependency issues, if ever, which can contribute to relapse.
Switching addictions and obsessing can also happen to members of Al-Anon or Co-Dependents Anonymous.